Let’s face it: January is the worst month of the year…
Aside from the complete loss of Christmas cheer, it brings all manner of unpleasantries when it comes to your finances – ranging from the 31 January self-assessment tax deadline to the inevitable credit card bills.
That being said, there’s plenty you can do to make your money stretch further this January, and beyond.
We spoke with the Money Advice Service about what you can do to survive the toughest of months:
If you only make one New Year’s resolution, make it about budgeting.
It’s so easy to quickly spend more than you have coming in, which leads to the inevitable overdraft fees or credit card charges. The Money Advice Service estimates 15 per cent of us never plan our finances by budgeting, which can create all manner of problems if money is tight.
You’ve probably seen plenty of articles and TV programmes or listened to countless experts on the radio talking about the benefits of budgeting, and may have dismissed what you’ve heard as unattainable. In fact, there are some really simple things you can do to keep your finances afloat.
The Money Advice Service’s budget planner will certainly help you get started.
Building a money plan
There are some outgoings you have to cover – the weekly shop, mortgage or rent, utility bills and Council Tax being the most prominent ones. Others are easy to brush off to the back of your mind.
You can probably put home and car insurance into this category. With a budget in place it is easier to cover these expenses, and to live within your means. Or course, it is always a good idea to save a little extra to cover unexpected expenses such as plumbing or heating issues, or birthdays and other celebrations.
The first thing anyone in need of a budget must do is look for ways to cut back. This can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Food shopping is a major expense and one many of us can address without losing out.
You can often save money by opting for own-brand products, and by sticking to what you have on your shopping list. There’s a reason why supermarkets place all the goodies by the tills – they know you’re going to be stuck there, queuing, bored and tempted to pick up chocolates. You’d probably be better off bulk buying a little more veg or meat and making casseroles, stews and so on that will provide you with several meals.
Incidentally, this approach could save you a fortune on takeaways, if you remember to get them out of the freezer.
Sell, sell, sell
While you’re in the process of slashing your weekly shopping bill you could raise some extra cash by selling your unwanted wares.
Online auctions and markets such as eBay are probably the easiest way to get shot of items that are just getting in the way, but there are plenty of others out there for anyone looking to have a proper clear-out.
Sure, you could wait for the summer to de-clutter, get up with the Sunday dawn and flog your unwanted things at a boot fair. But why wait when you can do it all from the comfort of your own duvet?
Early mornings are overrated anyway…
Switch and slash
Summer’s a way off, so let’s concentrate on now.
January is traditionally a quiet month, with a lot less on the social calendar than December. It’s a good time to review your finances and consider whether you’d be better off switching banks or even your energy provider. You could save a pretty penny with relatively little effort.
It’s also worth contemplating what you spend each month on subscriptions, such as for a TV service, and avoid the January sales – which suck people into buying things they can live without.
Finally, don’t fall foul of the ominous New Year’s resolution to join a gym. Many people look at the New Year as a time to lose weight and get fit, but while signing up to, or continuing with a gym subscription will doubtless cost you pounds, they won’t be the ones you want to lose – especially if you are tempted by those checkout chocolate bars.
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